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Published: August 16th 2018
Beautiful, Serene, Quiet... it's not open yet.
Day 35 - Colosseum and the Roman Forum
Sunday, we woke up very early so that we could be at the Colosseum when it opened at 8:30 AM. The Roma Pass let us skip the lines, but we also wanted to skip the crowds. We caught the city bus at 7AM so that we could eat at a cafe near the Colosseum. It turns out that none of the cafes directly across from the monument are open before 9am, which confused Tony a lot.
We went around the corner to find one open cafe called “Coming Out”, with rainbow signs, and lots of colorful clients. Apparently, this location also doubles as a night club and a hostel of sorts. We had some great conversations about music and strange dance music videos, and then headed out to stand in the very short skip-the-line line.
The Colosseum is amazing. You can walk around a good portion of it (and they are renovating more areas so soon you can go even further). One thing to know is that there are multiple types of tickets and tours which give you even
hardly anyone else in sight. Perfect time to visit the most famous building in the world.
more access to the underground, to the recreated floor, to the very top. None of these are included in the basic tickets, which is what Roma Pass provides. We did not mind, though, having just come back from Athens and Scotland, and were happy to just walk around the largely empty Colosseum.
By using our skip-the-line pass and getting there when it opened, we were able to look out into the ancient building and see, perhaps, 5 other people. We were there for 40 minutes and saw everything we could see at a leisurely (for us) pace. On our way out, we encountered the crowds who had just come in and who were waiting in line. We are very glad we came so early, as it got even worse later in the day.
After a late breakfast at a (now open) cafe, we headed to find the entry to the Roman Forum. It was a bit difficult to know which entrance to use, as they have changed several in the last few years. As they renovate and rework infrastructure to handle the ever increasing crowds year over year, they have either closed most of the
The palace on Palatine Hill
Built much later than the Roman Forum below, and restored recently... it shows what life was like for serious royalty.
half dozen entries, or made them exit only. As of July 2018, there are only two entrances, one for regular tickets, and one for skip-the-line and groups. We ended up standing for 30 minutes in the skip-the-line line (where there was no shade) and almost gave up after the 30th street vendor tried to sell us umbrellas, hats, or selfie sticks, but Tony insisted.
The tickets for Colosseum and Forum are linked, and you must use them on the same day, so we could not come very early to both attractions. However, had we known how popular the Forum would be, we would have brought food (which you are allowed to eat inside the forum) and entered the forum immediately after leaving the Colosseum. We highly recommend both sites.
We were concerned by the massive crowd at the entry gate and, while it was crowded at times inside, the Forum is so massive that you can easily spread out and still have a peaceful experience, mostly. In general, there is limited shade at the Forum, especially near midday. There are the occasional trees down in the Forum itself, and the Palaces and
gardens at the top of the hill have ample shade. However, wherever there is shade, there are also a lot of people sharing it. But enough about heat and shade and crowds.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill palaces are incredible. Massive buildings, multiple stories of lofty arches (5-10 meters high), massive stadiums for the private sport spectacles of the emperor, tunnels upon tunnels, ruins upon ruins… We spent 4 hours there, and we feel we could have spent a lot more if it weren’t for the heat and lack of available food. (If we go again, we’ll take backpacks stuffed with picnic food). Water was not a problem, as they had piped the springs in the area into small fountains where everyone filled up their water bottles. The water was clean and fresh and cold. This was common all over Rome.
We saw multiple temples to ancient gods in the oldest section of the forum, and even a crack that was said to be an entrance to the underworld. Michelle and Tony had a lot of fun making Percy Jackson references our entire time there. Anne started reading the books a
What are those?
We finally figured out (by reading the sign) that this is just one wing of a GIANT church.
few days later. It was bewildering to think about how massive and structured this ancient city was, and how long it has taken civilization to get back to something even approaching this level of grandeur.
On our way back from the Forum, we decided to stop by one more attraction. It was 40 degrees (100F), and 80%!h(MISSING)umidity, but we had not yet melted. Perhaps the water from the Roman Forum was blessed by the gods. We found the Mouth of Truth, another thing on Anne’s list, and stood in line to stick our hand in the mouth. Legend tells that the circular stone statue will bite off the hand of any liar who places it in. Lucky for us, it didn’t bite our hands off. It’s important to note that Michelle did NOT put her hand in.
You have to exit the line for the Mouth of Truth through an active Catholic church. For the Vatican, we had dressed appropriately (clothing covering shoulders and knees). However, we were not prepared for this, so Anne and Michelle donned the provided very thin cloth robes for a few minutes as we made our
Temple with a Church in it
A very common theme was to take an ancient Roman temple to the gods, and build a Catholic church in it.
way out. These robes are a common thing in all Catholic Churches in Rome (and there are a large number of Catholic churches in Rome).
On our way back, we walked along the river some, and ate gelato on a famous island in the middle of the river where there were once water wheels for mills, but is now the home of a hospital. We had another lovely afternoon nap, and an excellent dinner in the Campo Di Fiori.
We decided we had enough wandering around crowded hot cities, and that we wanted to see the countryside. Plus, we decided that the catacombs (even if we could find them) did not count as our natural cave visit for Italy. We packed up and got ready to check out early on Monday.
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